Arab–Iranian conflict

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Arab–Iranian conflict
Arab League - Iran.png
The key parties in the Arab–Iranian conflict
Datec. 1979–ongoing
(41 years)




Shia Crescent and Axis of Resistance:
 Syrian Arab Republic (from 2011)
 Iraq (from 2003)
 Lebanon (March 8 Alliance)

 Yemen (Supreme Political Council

 Arab League

Casualties and losses
Both sides:
2 million killed

The Arab–Iranian conflict[1][2][3][4] or the Arab-Persian conflict is a term which is used in reference to the modern conflict between Arab League countries and Iran and in a broader sense, the term is also used in reference to the ethnic tensions which exist between Arabs and Persians[5] as well as the historic conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims,[6] in which post-revolutionary Iran sees itself as the champion of the Shia Muslims in the Middle East.

The Arab-Iranian conflict resulted in two bloodiest wars in the modern history of the Middle East: the Iran-Iraq War in which 750,000 to 1 million people were killed and the ongoing Syrian Civil War in which 371,000–570,000 people were killed as of 2019.



Consolidation of the Iranian Revolution

The 1979 Khuzestan uprising was one of the nationwide uprisings in Iran, which erupted in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution. The unrest was fed by Arab demands for autonomy.[7] The uprising was effectively quelled by Iranian security forces, resulting in more than a hundred people on both sides killed.[7]

The Iran-Iraq War

The Iran–Iraq War began on 22 September 1980, when Iraq invaded Iran, and it ended on 20 August 1988, when Iran accepted the UN-brokered ceasefire. Iraq wanted to replace Iran as the dominant Persian Gulf state, and was worried the 1979 Iranian Revolution would lead Iraq's Shi'ite majority to rebel against the Ba'athist government. The war also followed a long history of border disputes, and Iraq planned to annex the oil-rich Khuzestan Province and the east bank of the Arvand Rud (Shatt al-Arab).

Although Iraq hoped to take advantage of Iran's post-revolutionary chaos, it made limited progress and was quickly repelled; Iran regained virtually all lost territory by June 1982. For the next six years, Iran was on the offensive[8] until near the end of the war.[9] There were a number of proxy forces—most notably the People's Mujahedin of Iran siding with Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdish militias of the KDP and PUK siding with Iran. The United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, France, and most Arab countries provided political and logistic support for Iraq, while Iran was largely isolated.

After eight years, war-weariness, economic problems, decreased morale, repeated Iranian military failures, recent Iraqi successes, Iraqi use of weapons of mass destruction, lack of international sympathy, and increased U.S.–Iran military tension all led to a ceasefire brokered by the United Nations.

The conflict has been compared to World War I in terms of the tactics used, including large-scale trench warfare with barbed wire stretched across fortified defensive lines, manned machine gun posts, bayonet charges, Iranian human wave attacks, extensive use of chemical weapons by Iraq, and, later, deliberate attacks on civilian targets. A special feature of the war can be seen in the Iranian cult of the martyr which had been developed in the years before the revolution. The discourses on martyrdom formulated in the Iranian Shiite context led to the tactics of "human wave attacks" and thus had a lasting impact on the dynamics of the war.[10]

An estimated 500,000 Iraqi and Iranian soldiers died, in addition to a smaller number of civilians. The end of the war resulted in neither reparations nor border changes.

Iran-Saudi Arabia proxy conflict

The Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict, sometimes also referred to as the Iran–Saudi Arabia Cold War,[11] Middle East Cold War[12] or Middle East Conflict,[13] is the ongoing struggle for influence in the Middle East and surrounding regions between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.[14] The two countries have provided varying degrees of support to opposing sides in nearby conflicts, including the civil wars in Syria,[15][16][17] Yemen,[18][19] and Iraq.[20] The rivalry also extends to disputes in Bahrain,[21] Lebanon,[22] Qatar,[23] Pakistan,[24][25] Afghanistan,[26][27] Nigeria,[28][29] and Morocco,[30] as well as broader competition in North and East Africa,[29][31] parts of South Asia,[32] Central Asia,[33][27] and the Caucasus.[34]

In what has been described as a cold war, the conflict is waged on multiple levels over geopolitical, economic, and sectarian influence in pursuit of regional hegemony.[35][36][37] American support for Saudi Arabia and its allies as well as Russian and Chinese support for Iran and its allies have drawn comparisons to the dynamics of the Cold War era, and the proxy conflict has been characterized as a front in what Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has referred to as the "New Cold War".[38][39][40][41]

The rivalry today is primarily a political and economic struggle exacerbated by religious differences, and sectarianism in the region is exploited by both countries for geopolitical purposes as part of a larger conflict.[37][42][43] Iran is largely Shia Muslim, while Saudi Arabia sees itself as the leading Sunni Muslim power.[44]

See also


  1. ^ The Origins of the Arab-Iranian Conflict by Cambridge U-ty Press
  2. ^ [1],Soviet-American Relations with Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan, p411
  3. ^ Turkey's Foreign Policy in the 21st Century: A Changing Role in World Politics, p192
  4. ^ [ "The Egyptian daily said that by promoting such a plan the United States is going to preoccupy Arabs with an Arab-Iranian conflict"
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ Halliday, F. Arabs and Persians beyond the Geopolitics of the Gulf. "The Safavis also institutionalised what was to be another central defining difference between Arabs and Persians, the predominance of Shi'ite Islam in Iran. This made formal the religious difference between Arabs and Persians that had been smouldering since the early years of Islam. In subsequent nationalist rhetoric the Iranians could be seen as shu'ûbiyyin, defectors from both Arabism and the orthodox faith, while in Khomeini's rhetoric Saddam was associated with Yazid, the Ummayad tyrant who killed Hussain at Karbala in 680AD"
  7. ^ a b Ward, p.231-4
  8. ^ Molavi, Afshin (2005). The Soul of Iran: A Nation's Journey to Freedom (Revised ed.). England: W. W. Norton & Company. p. 152. ISBN 978-0-393-32597-3.
  9. ^ Karsh, Efraim (2002). The Iran–Iraq War, 1980–1988. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. p. 89. ISBN 978-1-84176-371-2. OCLC 48783766.
  10. ^ Gölz, "Martyrdom and Masculinity in Warring Iran. The Karbala Paradigm, the Heroic, and the Personal Dimensions of War." , Behemoth 12, no. 1 (2019): 35–51, 35.
  11. ^ Fitch, Asa (6 November 2017). "Iran-Saudi Cold War Intensifies as Militant Threat Fades". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  12. ^ Gause III, F. Gregory (July 2014). "Beyond Sectarianism: The New Middle East Cold War" (PDF). Brookings Doha Center Analysis Paper. Brookings Institution (11): 1, 3. Retrieved 26 October 2017.
  13. ^ "Pakistan Army Will Not Engage in the Middle East Conflict Despite Saudi Bailout Package". EurAsian Times. 25 October 2018. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  14. ^ Rubin, Jennifer (6 January 2016). "The Iran-Saudi Arabia proxy war". The Washington Post. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  15. ^ Gerges, Fawaz (15 December 2013). "Saudi Arabia and Iran must end their proxy war in Syria". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  16. ^ Rogin, Josh (4 November 2015). "Iran and Saudi Arabia Clash Inside Syria Talks". Bloomberg View. Retrieved 7 March 2018. ...Iran and Saudi Arabia to discuss anything civilly, much less come to an agreement on Syria, where both sides have proxy forces in the fight.
  17. ^ Loewenstein, Jennifer (2 October 2015). "Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars". CounterPunch. Retrieved 26 February 2018. Saudi Arabian and Iranian-backed factions are contributing to the proxy war in Syria...
  18. ^ Tisdall, Simon (25 March 2015). "Iran-Saudi proxy war in Yemen explodes into region-wide crisis". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  19. ^ Browning, Noah (21 April 2015). "The Iran-Saudi Arabia proxy war in Yemen has reached a new phase". Business Insider. Reuters. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  20. ^ Rubin, Alissa J. (6 July 2016). "Iraq Before the War: A Fractured, Pent-Up Society". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  21. ^ Mabon, Simon. "The Battle for Bahrain: Iranian-Saudi Rivalry". Middle East Policy Council. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  22. ^ Ghattas, Kim (20 May 2016). "Iran-Saudi tensions simmer in Lebanon". BBC News. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  23. ^ Kenyon, Peter (17 June 2017). "Qatar's Crisis With Saudi Arabia And Gulf Neighbors Has Decades-Long Roots". NPR. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  24. ^ Panda, Ankit (22 January 2016). "Why Is Pakistan Interested in Brokering Peace Between Iran and Saudi Arabia?". The Diplomat. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  25. ^ Sewag, Zulqarnain (30 April 2015). "Sectarian Rise in Pakistan: Role of Saudi Arabia and Iran". 1 (3). Archived from the original on 15 February 2017. Retrieved 11 July 2016 – via Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  26. ^ Seerat, Rustam Ali (14 January 2016). "Iran and Saudi Arabia in Afghanistan". The Diplomat. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
  27. ^ a b Mir, Haroun (6 April 2015). "Afghanistan stuck between Iran and Saudi Arabia". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  28. ^ Thurston, Alex (31 October 2016). "How far does Saudi Arabia's influence go? Look at Nigeria". The Washington Post. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  29. ^ a b Oladipo, Tomi (7 January 2016). "Saudi Arabia and Iran fight for Africa's loyalty". BBC News. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  30. ^ "Morocco severs ties with Iran over support for West Sahara Polisario front: official". Reuters. 1 May 2018. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  31. ^ El Harmouzi, Nouh. "Repercussions of the Saudi-Iranian Conflict on North Africa". The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Retrieved 26 October 2017.
  32. ^ Shankar, Abha (6 October 2016). "The Saudi-Iran Rivalry and Sectarian Strife in South Asia". The Diplomat. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
  33. ^ Peyrouse, Sebastien (6 April 2014). "Iran's Growing Role in Central Asia? Geopolitical, Economic and Political Profit and Loss Account". Al Jazeera Center for Studies. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
  34. ^ Dorsey, James (19 February 2018). "Expanding Regional Rivalries: Saudi Arabia and Iran battle it out in Azerbaijan". International Policy Digest. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  35. ^ Joyner, Alfred (4 January 2016). "Iran vs Saudi Arabia: The Middle East cold war explained". International Business Times. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  36. ^ See:
  37. ^ a b Fathollah-Nejad, Ali (25 October 2017). "The Iranian–Saudi Hegemonic Rivalry". Belfer Center. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  38. ^ Klare, Michael (1 June 2013). "Welcome to Cold War II". Tom Dispatch. RealClearWorld. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  39. ^ Meyer, Henry; Wishart, Ian; Biryukov, Andrey (13 February 2016). "Russia's Medvedev: We Are in 'a New Cold War'". Bloomberg. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  40. ^ Simpson Jr., George L. (1 March 2010). "Russian and Chinese Support for Tehran". Middle East Quarterly. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  41. ^ Blanchard, Ben (16 November 2017). "China's Xi offers support for Saudi amid regional uncertainty". Reuters. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  42. ^ Erickson, Amanda (20 December 2017). "What's behind the feud between Saudi Arabia and Iran? Power". The Washington Post. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  43. ^ "The 'Cold War' between Iran and Saudi Arabia is heating up. Here are 5 things you should know about it". Agence France-Presse. 12 November 2017. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  44. ^ Marcus, Jonathan (16 September 2019). "Why Saudi Arabia and Iran are bitter rivals". BBC News. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
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